October 22, 2001
Exploring the U.S. military's relationship with opposition forces in Afghanistan.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For more on the situation in Afghanistan, we turn to Haron Amin, spokesman for the Northern Alliance and the Northern Alliance's representative to Washington. Ashraf Ghani is adjunct professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. He was born in Afghanistan, and taught there before coming to the United States in 1977. And to Qayum Karzai is an Afghan citizen and the founder of Afghans for Civil Society, which seeks to promote inter- Afghan dialogue. His family has been hosting meetings of Afghan tribal leaders in Quetta, Pakistan.
Haron Amin, do the attacks on Taliban front lines, front- line positions opposite the Northern Alliance mean that the Northern Alliance is preparing to move towards Kabul as Secretary of State Powell indicated?
|Needs to be more coordination|
HARON AMIN: Elizabeth, I should emphasize that we have been requesting for the coordination of military attacks on Taliban front lines for a long time. Indeed, pounding of a lot of the stationary or static Taliban positions have not yielded much or compounds -- the al-Qaida people along thousands of other militants have sought refuge in the front line.
We apparently based from our intelligence that there was some sort of guarantee by the Pakistanis who had told them to move along the front line.
But indeed one thing that I can tell you is that if there is the coordination, a close coordination of these attacks, the air raids into the Taliban positions around most of the...I mean, most of the Northern Afghanistan, Masar, Herat, -- around Talikan -- as well as northern of Kabul and if it's simultaneous that would give up the upper hand on doing the ground move ourselves and hopefully being able to take and reduce the number of the Taliban and those of al-Qaida tremendously.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do what else? Move towards Kabul? Surround Kabul? What's the strategy?
HARON AMIN: The strategy is that this is going to be - this is going to be a four-pronged attack and hopefully north of Kabul we're going to move and surround Kabul but not capture Kabul, not occupy Kabul because it has a lot of implications and we were still waiting for the Afghan groups to get together and hopefully have, with the help of the United Nations and the international community, a clear political road map.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Amin, describe the coordination between the United States and the Northern Alliance. How is it carried out? How close is the coordination?
HARON AMIN: Thus far I mean with the exception of the last maybe 12 to 24 hours there was some level of coordination but mostly carried out by the international community as the counter terrorism campaign on its own. We were still waiting and lately it seems that it's getting more to what we have really desired. I think that in order for us to be able to tangibly gain some ground and push the Taliban back there needs to be a lot more coordination. That's something we're looking into with those that are involved in the campaign of air raids.
|Let a political roadmap emerge|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ashraf Ghani, what are your contacts telling you about these attacks on the front lines?
ASHRAF GHANI: What they're saying is that there's enormous fear that the Northern Alliance will not be able to maintain its unity and that some elements within it would actually advance upon Kabul and repeat the story of '92, namely to confront the international community with a fait accompli and declare themselves to be the Government of Afghanistan.
Second, there's enormous fear that should the Northern Alliance actually reach Kabul there would be repetition of the deeds that involved killing of civilians and lack of security for them and that this in turn could provoke a very strong reaction on the part of the Pashtuns in general and some of the other elements of the Afghan society and could legitimate the Taliban as a force.
The third thing that they're saying is that the Taliban have really taken a very strong nationalist rhetoric these days and there is no one else that is articulating a vision and a political roadmap that rallies the nation and consequently a lot of people who might otherwise be willing to get out from under the Taliban do not know who to go to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Haron Amin, I'll come back to you for a response on that. But first Qayum Karzai, what's your view? What are you hearing about the attacks on the front line positions and what they portend?
QAYUM KARZAI: Well, I will agree with the general thesis that Ashraf Ghani has put forward. At this time I think there's a great consensus in Afghanistan that the best thing is to avoid fighting in Kabul and let a political roadmap, based on the process of creating an Afghan consensus, emerge first and catch up with the military activities and then create an alternative to the Taliban that is...that is representative of the whole of Afghanistan and then take care of the issues thereafter.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Haron Amin, I'm going to come back to the issue of the diplomatic solutions but on the question of divisions within the Northern Alliance and whether one group might, in fact, move into Kabul and try to take it, what about that?
HARON AMIN: Well, let me specifically tell you that the... there is consensus within the leadership of the united front not to invade Kabul. That has been amply stated by our spokespeople as well as officials throughout most of the media. That is clear.
Certainly I can tell you one thing, that there seems to be more cohesion in the ranks of the United Front than there is actually in terms of a policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan here in Washington. But regardless, one thing that is important is that there is no intention of invading Kabul. There is... I mean, remember one thing, Elizabeth, that is, in order to be able to hand down Osama bin Laden you need to destroy al-Qaida.
Both of these tasks could not be done without the roll back of the Taliban. Apparently thus far the military initiative has failed. All it has produced is a lot of destroyed buildings and some destroyed planes and a little bit of the military infrastructure.
What needs to really happen is there needs to be the push back of the Taliban through most of Northern Afghanistan so that actually more can be done and southern parts of Afghanistan.
That ought to be simultaneous to some sort of an alternative of some of the Pashtun leadership in the south to replace the Taliban but also diplomatically getting back to that, that our delegation has been in contact with the former monarch of Afghanistan.
They're going to be seeing again hopefully in the next two or three days meeting in Turkey. They're going to be discussing the post Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. But again we emphasize the role, the pivotal role of the United Nations in all of this.
|Targeting buildings has little yield|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Amin, I want to go back to something you just said and raised in your earlier remarks too. You said there hasn't been much effect on the Taliban of all the attacks so far. Elaborate on that a little, please.
HARON AMIN: Well, the people that attacked the United States on September 11, these were individuals, not stationery targets like buildings and so on and so forth.
What thus far has happened is a lot of targeting of a lot of these buildings on the ground hasn't really yielded much. You're looking at manpower. These are the people that have been fighting us for many years.
These are the people that aided al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden to carry out these terrorist attacks against the international community. What needs to happen is these people need to be eliminated on the ground.
That's why we welcome the last phase of the military air campaign that is going to tangibly target individuals that are in these trenches and these front lines. That's what needs to really happen.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Qayum Karzai, what are you hearing from your contacts about the effect of the attacks so far, about defections, for example?
QAYUM KARZAI: Well, there's great potential for defection in the south of Afghanistan. But the great impediment to that is that the political alternative is lagging very behind, and there is no place for people to defect to. And I do believe that the great potential is there though.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go on. Tell us some more about the political alternative. What is the status right now of the various efforts, which you have described in earlier appearances here to try to put together some kind of a coalition that would be a place to defect to?
QAYUM KARZAI: Well, unfortunately one of the most important things that actually sort of slowed down the political alternative emerging is that Pakistan actually pushed the ethnic issue after Afghan politics to the forefront of the agenda, and these are the internal dynamics of Afghanistan. And pushing these ethnic issues to the forefront....
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you mean - I'm sorry -- what do you mean push the ethnic issues to the forefront?
QAYUM KARZAI: For example, Pakistan last week decided to inject the issue of ethnicity that there should be... that sort of detailing the post Taliban regime and how to leverage that regime.
I think the international community needs to constrain them from these ventures because the only way to create an alternative in Afghanistan is for Afghans to go the track of self-determination that they alone should sit in the process and figure out an alternative to the Taliban.
The more the neighbors insist on these ethnic issues and then it opens doors for other neighbors to create instability in this process.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But there is a meeting in Turkey coming up, right?
QAYUM KARZAI: Yes, there is.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What is that meeting? What's the goal?
QAYUM KARZAI: The goal is to finalize the list of 120 people or so -- the supreme council.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This would be a meeting of people from all the different factions and groups in Afghanistan, right?
QAYUM KARZAI: This will be a membership that will represent the great majority of the Afghan people, yes -- every sector of the Afghan society and every region of the Afghan society. And then in case that there is a vacuum developing in Kabul that this council will be moving into Kabul to do their deliberation.
|One single, coordinated effort|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ashraf Ghani, how do you see the diplomatic efforts at this point?
ASHRAF GHANI: The diplomatic efforts are beginning to intensify because this personal representative of the secretary general has carried out a series of discussions and now his efforts will intensify. What is required is that there be one single, coordinated effort at finding a political solution.
If there are multiple initiatives taken in each of the key players pursues an agenda and sends mixed signals, it's likely to confuse people. Currently, there's enormous confusion among the Afghans in terms of different things that they are hearing from different parts of the U.S. Government.
And that, in turn, because of simultaneity of living and every message being conveyed back and beamed to Afghanistan is producing a lot of confusing behavior on the part of the Afghans because they quite don't know as to what the intentions of the U.S. Government are.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ashraf Ghani, just briefly, what's the significance of the Turkey meeting? Is it something we should be watching closely?
ASHRAF GHANI: We should be watching but we should also probably not hope too much from it. One reason being is that the key component of it is the former king and the Northern Alliance.
Other groups has raised issues as to whether the division of labor that has been agreed upon in terms of seats and representation among these two groups actually represents the balance of power in Afghanistan. The related issue is that the Taliban are militarily intact and until they're militarily intact and the major groups that are living under their control have not defected wholesale -- this meeting will still remain symbolic.
The meeting between the king and the Northern Alliance that took place has as yet not resulted in a significant defection of leaders of Pashtun community across the board in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan to the king and north of the Central Afghanistan. Therefore, until that happens, we really don't have the elements of a real coalition on the ground that would enable people to move.
In the meantime people are extremely concerned about security and fear that a major vacuum is developing within which a backlash could take place.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you all three. We have to leave it there. Thanks very much.
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